Let’s start this off by saving I love Conan series. I’ve been reading back issue of Dark Horse series and so far they’ve all been really good. Robert E. Howard‘s original writing, something I’ve also been reading, have, of course, been fantastic and it’s interesting to see how true to his character other writers are. Brian Wood’s Conan has been one of the best I’ve read and, dare I say, one of the best to date since Robert E. Howard himself.
Brian Wood gets the character, I feel, and having just read Robert E. Howard’s original Queen of the Black Coast series, I like the direction that Brian Wood has chosen to take this. I’m certainly looking forward to how he’s going to wrap out this first, larger Belit arc. I say that because there still, should be at least, much more story between Conan and Belit and all these mini-series so far have been building blocks to complete the epic tale that is the Queen of the Black Coast. Each story, even the ones that stray from the original story, has been really well written, well thought out and with a clear direction. Conan the Barbarian #8 has been no different and with Brian Wood at the helm I can’t wait for the next issue. This, however, brings me to the art…
Becky Cloonan, the first artist to team with long time collaborator Brian Wood, really set a tone for this series. I enjoyed her art and her design of the young Cimmerian immensely and, after reading how Robert E. Howard described Conan, feel that she also really got the character and got the Conan he was going for with the Queen of the Black Coast series. James Harren stepped in, I assume to relieve Becky Cloonan while she worked on other projects like Batman #12, and being such a fan of Becky’s art in the original few mini-series it took a few pages to get used to. I never really like art changes in a series, especially changes in the middle of a single book, but I warmed up to James Harren’s art and it still worked really well with the character and the story. It was still the Conan that Becky Cloonan had started with but it was done his own way. Vasilis Lolos, the artist for this issue and I think the rest of this mini-series, however…
Look, I don’t like being overly negative and I don’t like being unnecessarily cruel but the art for this book just did not work. It distracted from Brian Wood’s writing and really hindered the story and the momentum that the story is building to. They mouths of the characters throws me off and the expressions to me don’t always go with what the character is saying or what the narrative is describing. If Dave Stewart wasn’t coloring this I don’t know if I would be able to finish this story and that pains me to say because I really do enjoy the character and this series. I don’t feel this represents the Conan and Brian Wood, along with Becky Cloonan and James Harren, have used and had in mind.
The art for this book really hurts the story and I know that Brian Wood is building up to a big show down for Conan in his own land of Cimmeria but in this particular issue it feels like the momentum takes one step forward and two steps back. For anybody who may have just starting reading this series, go back and read the first seven issues or, if you want, wait until January for the collection of the first six issues. I look forward to the next issue for Brian Wood’s story, but look forward to issue 10 when new artist takes over. I looked him up (Declan Shalvey) and the potential is there. I guess we’ll see.
Bottom line this series has been great. The writing through all eight issues has been great. This, in eight issues, is now the third artist for this series. In ten issues they’ll have four different artists. I don’t know if this is planned or they just can’t keep an artist on this project, for one reason or another, but it’s got to stop. There needs to be some sort of normalcy with the art in this series.
(The overall score is definitely saved by the writing.)